Miles Morales Review
Spider-Man swung onto our PlayStation 4’s in 2018, setting sales records and providing the best superhero game since Arkham City. We were briefly introduced to the character Miles Morales in a few cinematic gameplay sequences, where we learned of his origin and his motivations. Fast forward to 2020 and we get a game-but-not-full-game dedicated to Miles.
Taking place around a year after 2018’s Spider-Man “Devil’s Breath” story, Miles Morales’ story begins as he’s learning what it means to be Spider-Man. The story starts as with Miles inadvertently rereleasing Rhino, which results in the awakening of Miles’ bioelectric (Venom) powers. Miles’ success is taking down Rhino gives Peter sufficient confidence in his mentee that he can leave the city in his hands while he goes on a working Holiday.
We’re rapidly introduced to the plot’s main protagonists in Simon Krieger, present during Rhino’s capture, and the Tinkerer – an eco-terrorist organisation looking to use Krieger’s toxic tech against him.
As is the usual for a Spider-Man arc, it is a personal story involving betrayal, reconciliation and sacrifice. The game does remarkably well to introduce these characters, flesh them out, and weave them into an intricate storyline in such short game. Phin, Miles’ childhood friend, in particular, is so human and multifaceted. It helps really ground the events taking place and makes the game feel as personal as Spider-Man. However, the praise comes with caveats. For example, Krieger, in particular, is sort of reduced to a paint-by-numbers corporate villain. It’s fine, but it did make me long for a villain as fleshed out as Doctor Octopus.
This is where I feel the game really builds on Spider-Man. The combat, as you would expect, feels as fluid and satisfying as you would expect. There are fewer gadgets to deploy, but that doesn’t really matter because of addition of venom abilities. These abilities provide a different means of controlling the fight. For example, rather than deploying a gadget, it’s usually more effective to venom jump to incapacitate numerous enemies. These feel so powerful and wonderfully gratifying to execute – especially in a pinch. However, you never feel overpowered. I think that’s important, because there’s always a challenge.
Much like your finishers, successful attacks and dodges build venom bars (up to a max of 3), allowing you to perform various electric attacks. Some are more effective than others in KO’ing enemies. All have a conductive effect in which enemies coming into contact with those struck by electricity are also electrocuted. This adds a depth to combat, as those electrified are more vulnerable to normal attacks. Much like in Spider-Man, I seldom used gadgets outside stealth missions, but the gravity bomb, combined with a venom jump, was very satisfying. Overall, I felt the combat was a significant improvement over Spider-Man, and it will feel strange going back to Peter Parker in the sequel.
The biggest change to thew combat, at least while playing on the PS5, is the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Everything from opening a grate to venom punching an enemy feels so much better with these controllers. It increases immersion in a way that I would have never considered had I played this on PS4. Everything feels more impactful and I just can’t wait to see what else Sony do with these features.
The difficulty of the game is subjective, but playing on the highest difficulty, I felt, provided a nice challenge. I was frustrated during my first playthrough, but those frustrations were died as I started to anticipate the new attacks and become more proficient with the combat changes.
Side content in the game is similar to that found in Spider-Man. There’s just substantially less of it. In some instances, that feels great. However, in other instances, it creates the feeling that the game’s bereft of content.
The side missions are all fun and, while they are a little repetitive, they all add to the wider story. Mostly, it’s the neighbourhood learning to trust the “new” Spider-Man. The one quest that springs to mind is tracking down, and rescuing, a shop owner’s cat, amusingly called Spider-Man. Initially he’s disappointed at Miles, rather than the “real” Spider-Man, showing up. However, this changes when you rescue Spider-Man. He becomes friendly and warm towards Miles. This is reflected in the Spider-App, where initially very few citizens request Miles’ help. However, as his reputation grows, so do the number of requests. It all feeds into the wider story of Miles learning to call himself Spider-Man.
The knock-on from the reduction in content, is that I expect more innovation and variation in the content. This was an expectation that went unmatched. Beyond the side-quests, the collectables and world events are obviously similar to Spider-Man. Just far less numerate. This sometimes a positive, for example there’s no drone challenges (seriously, fuck those). However, it mostly just made the game feel like the stage was too big for the story. Remembering some of the cool encounters in Spider-Man, I found myself wishing that they had used the space better. The world feels less engaging as a result, and no amount of random crimes can change that.
The issue with the reduction in content is that, I couldn’t help think there was just not enough of it. I never felt as though Miles Morales had sated my need for web slinging. In fact, I nearly upgraded to play the upgraded Spider-Man because I didn’t feel done with the game. That’s not something I have experienced from a 1st party Sony game before. A friend said he can summarise Miles Morales “as a great game, but where’s the rest?”. I think this is a fair summary. Most facets of the game are executed excellently. There’s just not enough to justify the inflated price.
I guess that this is because I have had my expectations set by the content in other games, including Spider-Man. This is the same price as that game and, in comparison, the content doesn’t actually justify the cost. This is where we are with games though. Not every game can be directly compared, but by increasing the cost of this game to the price of, say, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – or, you know, Spider-Man – this is what Sony’s inviting. I’m very much invested in Spider-Man. However, having played the game, I’m not sure I can say the content presented matches Sony’s valuation. Miles Morales feels like a £30 game and, when we come to discuss the price increases of games, I think this game will be considered amongst those which should have remained at last gen prices.
In both performance and quality mode, Miles Morales looks incredible. The suits feel as though they have been designed to showcase ray tracing, which is a nice touch. The Christmas Market looks great, with all the reflections adding to the overall atmosphere. Puddles also look lovely, so no repeat of #PuddleGate this time round. Switching to performance mode is fine. The overall resolution does drop a bit, and there is no ray traced reflections. However, New York looks absolutely fantastic.
I tried this on both modes. Initially I opted for 60FPS, because frame rate is always (yes, always) more important than fidelity. In retrospect, this was a mistake. No matter how pretty quality mode may be, it felt like a stuttering mess after swinging through New York at 60FPS. It wasn’t a mess though, as it felt like a solid 30FPS. It was just that, after swinging at 60FPS for a few hours, dropping to 30FPS was…not good. Pretty puddles and shadows are redundant while engaged in combat requiring split-second timing for perfect dodges. This game feels designed to be played at 60FPS. In performance mode, it seldom (if ever) noticeably drops from that target. Frame rate held steady regardless of whether I was fighting in a crowded space, or on the bridge, or just swinging through Manhattan. This game performs brilliantly.
Verdict: Wait for Sale
As I mentioned, this is a condensed version of Spider-Man, so the amount of content is significantly reduced. While I some elements of the story suffer from this, the biggest changes to this, really, was the amount of side-content. I often found myself calling “bullshit” on some of the challenges in Spider-Man, so I see the loss of drone and bomb chases is an absolute win. Likewise, I enjoyed the reduction in enemy base clear-outs. There was nothing wrong with those in Spider-Man, they were just overabundant. The side missions were also often funny, though not exactly innovative. That is something that pervades the content; fun, but not exactly innovative.
This means the game is priced above it’s content offering. Which is a smaller, albeit prettier, version of 2018’s Spider-Man. A friend asked me whether they should buy it, and I think that, unlike its predecessor, the answer was unfortunately nuanced. If you absolutely love Spider-Man, then I think this is a solid purchase. If you are having to choose between games, for whatever reason, I think there are probably games released recently that will represent better value.
I just want to clarify that, while I very much enjoyed Miles Morales, I don’t think I would have opted for this had there been more launch offerings. I feel like £25-30 is the price point that this should have launched at. Sony stating that this is a £50 game only changes the value proposition negatively. If you compare it to other, cheaper expansions (and that’s really what it is), such as Blood and Wine (Witcher 3), then it compares negatively in terms of content and value.
I think Miles Morales is going to be part of a wider discussion in gaming, thanks to Sony’s decision to increase the cost of games this gen. While Miles Morales is a fun experience, ultimately, if they wanted to convince people that games should cost more, they should have done it with a different game.
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